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Health placed on critical list in lead up to election

By Karen Keast | Last Updated: 20-11-2013

Australian Nursing Federation federal secretary Lee Thomas

Health is shaping up as one of the major election battlegrounds as Australia prepares to head to the polls later this year.

In the wake of state health budgets being slashed across Australia, with the federal government at loggerheads with Victoria and Queensland over who is to blame for the funding cuts, nurses have called for health to be placed on the critical list.

Queensland has experienced major cuts to health and countless job losses, and in Victoria the toll continues to rise – Barwon Health has had $5 million slashed from its budget, $5.1 million at St Vincent’s, $7.9 million at Alfred Health, $6.8 million at Austin Health, $8.4 million at Eastern Health, $1.2 million at Peter Mac, $1.4 million at South West Healthcare, $2.8 million at Ballarat Health Services, and $255,000 at Colac Area Health.

More than 400 beds have been closed and over 3000 elective surgery procedures have been cancelled with the cuts also resulting in job losses, prompting the ANF Vic Branch to announce it will hold a community rally this Sunday to ‘save Victoria’s hospitals’.

It comes after a meeting between Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek and State Health Minister David Davis failed to resolve the funding dispute.

Last year, the federal government changed its funding for health, based on new population data, which left Victoria $107 million this financial year worse off while Queensland has lost $103 million.

The federal government has also blamed the states for enforcing their own cuts to health budgets.

Australian Nursing Federation federal secretary Lee Thomas said health, particularly safe patient care, must be a top priority for the September 14 election.

Ms Thomas said the organisation’s health platform will focus on the predicted shortage of 109,000 nurses by 2025, and the current shortage of 20,000 nurses in aged care, the under-employment of nursing graduates, and experienced nurses and midwives losing their jobs due to “slash and burn” health budget cuts.

The union also wants HECS fees to be removed as an incentive for nursing graduates in under-resourced and short staffed areas such as rural and remote communities, and provision of the right staffing levels for nurses and midwives to ensure the delivery of safe patient care.

“The ANF is calling on all the parties to make safe patient care for all Australians a top priority at the election,” Ms Thomas said.

“As a result, the ANF will be seeking urgent representations with all major parties as well as key independents to put our health platform to them and asking that they commit to the ongoing delivery of safe patient healthcare for the Australian community.”

• ANF Vic Branch members and other health professionals will join hundreds of Victorians on Sunday, February 3, at a community rally to be held in Treasury Gardens from 11am to 12:30pm.

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